Mike Mulligan Would Be Proud

I guess Elizabeth has been getting a lot more attention on this blog than Luke, probably because her basic wiring is so different from mine that nearly everything she does and says is a source of fascination and/or amazement to me.

Luke isn’t hard for me to fathom, most of the time. He got my genetics, my wiring; for the most part he sees the world the way I see it. I instinctively understand most of his emotions and frustrations. He feels things Very Strongly, and part of me hopes he learns to govern his passions earlier in life than I did, while another part of me hopes that they never get worn down and dulled to the extent that mine eventually were.

But enough about all that maudlin stuff. Today I want to show off one of Luke’s truly awesome talents, one I hope he’ll continue to develop as he grows into adulthood.

It started when he was just an infant, and could not get enough of classical music. People told me that listening to it would help develop his spatial acuity or somesuch; all I knew was that the “Smart Symphonies” CD the hospital gave me when he was born was something he never got tired of listening to.

He was something like six or eight months old the time Elizabeth and I were putting together a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle and he was sitting on my lap, watching. Suddenly he reached over, picked up one of the little cardboard pieces, and snapped it confidently into place in one try. Then he just went back to watching.

When he was a toddler, he developed a hobby that I would have been much more supportive of if it hadn’t wreaked total havoc on our house. He would go through all the rooms, selecting apparently random household objects and putting them in a big pile on the living-room floor. When he’d found all the objects he needed, he would then assemble them into a tugboat, or a locomotive, or an airplane, or whatever he’d wanted to build that day.

This gift of his has gone through several incarnations over the years, and I’m sorry to say I probably haven’t given it the amount of attention and encouragement it deserves. This sort of creativity tends to be incredibly messy, and now that I’m an old grup I seem to notice the mess more than the results. And that is sad.

Today Luke asked me if he could get a steam shovel for his birthday, like the one in “Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel.” I told him that I didn’t think they made that particular model of toy anymore, because in real life steam shovels have been replaced by diesel-powered excavators.

He frowned irritably at that news, then shrugged and said that was okay, he’d just make his own then.

I am ashamed to say that when I saw him hard at work on the living-room floor amid piles of construction paper and scotch tape, I grumbled that he’d better clean up the mess when he was done. Honestly, what is wrong with me?

A little while later he called out that he was taking his steam shovel outside to play in the sand. I asked him if I could see it first, and he handed me this little marvel of paper engineering:


The Chicago bolt in the main body is a pulley that raises and lowers the bucket by winding and unwinding the cord. The brad on the front arm serves as a hinge, to create realistic digging action. This is a fully-functional toy.

Luke’s long-term goal in life is to help save the planet by inventing a completely non-polluting car engine that runs on water or air or some other clean fuel. I would be the last person in the world to discourage him in this ambition, because I honestly believe that if he’s allowed to develop his gifts to the fullest there will be very little he can’t accomplish. I wish I could afford to give him all the resources he deserves, instead of making him make do with construction paper and scotch tape.

This is a boy who has something to offer the world. He never doubts his purpose in life, or his ability to achieve whatever he sets his mind to. He gets Very Frustrated when reality doesn’t accommodate his plans, but he never doubts the value of the plans themselves. He firmly believes that some realities need to be reshaped and reinvented. And so do I.

The fact that he cleaned up every last scrap of his steam-shovel-creation mess from the living-room floor without being reminded? Icing on the cake.

Categories: Artwork, Family, kids, Life, Love | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Mike Mulligan Would Be Proud

  1. kendall

    swweett momma of engineers! da’ boy’s going to build warp cores!


  2. Mia

    WOW! I wanna send him MY recycling and see what he comes up with! Go on Freecycle and ask for an erector set…STAT


  3. Debora

    Kendall — Non-polluting warp cores, even! ;^)

    Mia — I don’t think I’ve ever seen an erector set in person, are they pretty cool? Maybe I should get him one for his birthday.


  4. Brooke

    Get him about 50 erector sets and he could build a really exciting play set for the park in town! He is truly an amazing child! He is polite too…whatever you are doing, you are doing it right! Maybe your Luke could show MY Luke how to put things together (instead of destroying things!) Have a very blessed day!


  5. Debora

    Brooke, thanks for the kind words. My Luke went through his Destructo-Boy phase too…he’d broken five windows by the age of five! I think that’s all part of the whole boy gig.

    I’m definitely going to have to check out the erector set idea.


  6. Dee

    I wish my dad was still alive, he could teach Luke and I both how to sodder. Is that how you spell it?


  7. Debora

    “Solder,” I think. Would you use it in your jewelry-making?


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